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When it came time to create the book cover for Green Lady, I knew exactly what I wanted on the cover. A young girl, who’s just discovered forest magic, peering through the forest, her eyes glimmering with discovery.

This was the image I pictured every time I thought of the front cover. However, I quickly found that the effect I wanted was challenging to create. I consider myself a decent artist. But no matter what I put on a canvas, I couldn’t quite achieve the effect I wanted for my book cover.

Fortunately for me, my sister-in-law, Emily, is an amazing photographer.

(Here are some pictures Emily has taken for our family, to give you an idea).

When I approached Emily about helping me design a book cover, she was delighted. Normally, her work is centered around newborn and family photography, and she said it’d be fun to work on something different.

Finding a Model

Photoshoots require subjects. Though my character, Cleandra, is very much like me, she is not me. I really didn’t want to put my own face on the cover (though for some reason, people kept asking me if this was my plan). At first, Emily put out queries for a model, but we didn’t have much luck finding someone who fit the bill.

Then, it hit me. My childhood friend, Sasha, was my biggest fan growing up. She’s four years younger than me, but that never stopped us from being friends. When we were kids, she would rush over to my house every day after school to read what I’d written. We would dream of exploring the forest and discovering magic. Often, we discussed myriad plot twists and endings for my book.

Ironically, there is a character in Elodria modeled after Sasha. This character didn’t make it into Green Lady. I had a long debate over whether I should have Sasha model for Cleandra. Since Sasha had past modeling experience & she was so close to what I needed, I decided to go with it.

(Sasha’s character is a young girl named Gabriella. She may make an appearance in a later volume. No spoilers!) I wanted Gabriella to be part of Green Lady. Unfortunately, her story was too complex and it didn’t serve the main plot as much as I would’ve liked).

When I asked Sasha to model for the book cover, I could just see that 9-year-old girl again, jumping up and down and squealing on my front porch. I that moment, she was the ultimate fangirl, excited for my un-published book as though it was already a best-seller.

Sasha (7) & me (12) at summer camp.

Little did I know just how perfectly, and how quickly, Sasha would capture the aura I wanted for my book cover.

Preparing for the Shoot

We hired a makeup artist and picked a location. We asked the makeup artist to paint the green veins that appear on Cleandra’s face in the novel. It turns out the effect was more convincing with the help of Photoshop. But it helped Sasha get into character, so it was well worth it.

We tried several different hairstyles before settling on a simple braid. In my mind, Cleandra never does her hair, so I never imagined her wearing such a neat braid. The moment on the cover must have been after some lady-in-waiting (aka, my sister-in-law who’s also a hairdresser) took it upon herself to fix the princess’s hair. 😉

We drove high up into the Rocky Mountains for the photoshoot. Fussing over Sasha’s hair and makeup almost made us late. Because Emily wanted the day’s last light for our photoshoot (none of us could make it early in the morning), we were pushing our luck with the sunset.

I had some trepidation about the timing because the sun’s light disappears earlier in the mountains. When we arrived, we knew we had to move quickly.

Luck was on our side. Only two pictures in, we had already captured the shot I wanted for the front cover. The rest of the images were just for fun (and just in case we stumbled upon something even better).

Lessons Learned

If you want to create your own book cover, know that this experience came with a learning curve.

Emily and I also learned the hard way that book printers have very particular formatting requirement. This means book cover designers have a special set of skills that photographers don’t necessarily need. Emily has fantastic Photoshop skills However, her skills don’t include book cover formatting knowledge. We both learned a lot and had fun. However, I think the research and logistics after the photoshoot were a bit much for both of us.

The book cover concept for Curse of Brys was a bit too far-out for a real-life photoshoot. As a result, I have since switched to using a book cover design service. In the future, I will likely continue to do so.

However, I wouldn’t change this experience for the world. It was amazing to watch my main character come to life. What made it even better was being able to work with people I know.

Want to create your own book cover?

Here are some resources you may find helpful:

Amazon Createspace book cover template

Ingramspark book cover guidelines

Canva- free book cover templates